ELKHART – March Madness arrived in thrilling, heart-pounding fashion at North Side Gym Wednesday night.
And leave it to Warsaw star Kyle Mangas to be he heartiest of heroes too on a night of true Hoosier Hysteria.
Mangas, AKA Captain Clutch, capped an evening of unbelievable scintillating action by adding to his already impressive legacy in a Tiger uniform.
The senior, who has ice water in his veins, canned a stepback 3-pointer at the final horn to lift his team past Northridge 36-33 in a first-round game of the Class 4-A Elkhart Central Sectional.
Mangas’ latest hardwood heroics on the floor of the Old Barn on Bristol Street sends Warsaw on to the semifinals Friday night.
The defending sectional champion Tigers, now 15-9, will meet Elkhart Central (20-2) in the second semifinal contest. Goshen (14-9) faces Elkhart Memorial (11-11) first at 6 p.m. The sectional finale is slated for Saturday at 7 p.m.
Central rallied from a 17-point deficit in the final quarter and then outlasted Penn 75-73 in three overtimes in the first game Wednesday night.
The Blue Blazers beat Warsaw 50-45 back on Jan. 28 in North Side Gym. Mangas had 30 points in that contest.
The unflappable Mangas made his one basket in the final quarter the biggest of the season. The 6-3 guard worked the clock, dribbled just to the left of the top of the key and then calmly swished through his fifth trey of the night with a defender in his face for the game winner.
Mangas, who led his team with 19 points, was mobbed by his teammates and classmates as the final horn sounded after his shot tickled the twine.
“That crowd was all of my friends so that was pretty cool,” said Mangas of being in the middle of the postgame bedlam.
“I had hit a shot like that, a step back three, to end the third quarter and I thought that I would go back to it and it worked,” explained Mangas. “You just have to stay confident. There are a lot of ups and downs in a game and I had some tonight.”
Mangas hit a three-point play with 1.6 seconds to play for the final points in last year’s 38-35 sectional title game win over Elkhart Central.
“This one tonight ranks right up there because it keeps my senior year going,” noted Mangas, an Indiana All-Star candidate.
Warsaw led 29-23 entering the final frame before the Raiders rallied. Northridge took a 33-31 lead with 2:32 to play on a hoop by Nick Yoder. Jeremy David then converted a layup with 2:04 to play for Warsaw to tie the game at 33-33. Mangas then came up with a steal with 1:27 left. The Tigers ran clock before Northridge took a timeout with 48.2 seconds to play. Mangas, who had missed his first four shots on the final period, then delivered once again.
“That was a big one,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle of Mangas’ latest game winner. “We wanted something like that on the final play. We wanted the ball in Kyle’s hands. We did a good job holding the ball there late and then he just hit a tough shot, that was well defended.
“Kyle is the guy. He’s been very good in clutch moments for us. He’s not a worrier. I’m amazed by how well he just moves on to the next play. That takes a lot of toughness. Tonight just adds to his legacy with that shot.”
Warsaw, which beat Northridge 68-46 in their regular season meeting on Jan. 6 in Warsaw, trailed 6-2 after the opening period. The Tigers, despite shooting 5-20 in the opening half, led 15-11 at intermission. Warsaw closed the half on a 10-1 run, capped by three free throws by Nolan Groninger with .2 seconds to play. Mangas scored his team’s first 10 points of the game before Asher Blum hit a jumper with 4:12 to play in the second quarter.
“We felt good being up at halftime shooting 5-20 in the first half,” said Ogle. We shot just enough better in the second half.
“Northridge played really well tonight. They have improved vastly on the defensive end since we played them in January. Nick Yoder was very good for them tonight.”
Warsaw, which lost its final three regular-season games, has now defeated Northridge nine times in their last 10 meetings. The Raiders entered postseason play on a roll with four straight wins and nine victories in their last 11 games.
Mangas hit 7-18 shots overall from the field, but was 5-9 from distance. He now has 1,330 career points, just one point behind Whitey Bell, who is fourth all-time in program history with 1,331.
A huge key was the defensive effort Warsaw did on Luke Morrison. The senior, who scored 25 the first time versus the Tigers, managed just seven points. Morrison was averaging 19 points-per-game.
“We did a good job on Morrison and that was key tonight to us winning,” stated Ogle. “We had him circled after he scored 25 the last time we played them.”
Asher Blum had six key points and tied Mangas for team-high rebounding honors with six. David and Jaceb Burish each had four points and Groninger three.
Yoder had 13 points and five rebounds to pace the Raiders. Connor Utley finished with 10 points.
Warsaw shot 14-40 overall from the field, while the Raiders were 13-26. The Tigers were 5-13 from deep and Northridge 3-5. Warsaw was 3-5 from the line and Northridge 4-7. The Tigers had seven turnovers and the Raiders 10.
Northridge, which loses three seniors, finishes at 13-10.